Thursday, October 27, 2016
Holy Bushes Monastery
Can you believe I've been living in Russia for over a year and have never been outside of the large cities? Well, technically I've been to Lake Baikal, but I don't really consider it the countryside because it's too touristy. This weekend my friend, Lyaysan, and her parents invited me to go to Assumption St. George Monastery "Holy Bushes." It's about an hour drive north of Ufa near the start of the Ural Mountains. After waking up late and miraculously making it to the north of the city in just about 20 minutes we were on our way.
Assumption St. George Monastery was founded in 1905 by two women as a women's monastery. It lasted until 1927 when religion was banned in the Soviet Union and the property was completely destroyed. Worshiping began at the site in the late 1990s, and the land became a men's monastery in 2002. The graves of the two founders are still on the property and can be viewed just behind the main cathedral.
Google Translate and Anton still left me confused on why the name "Holy Bushes" was given to the monastery. Apparently, three birch trees and two willows were intertwined in a high level of land where the monastery now resides. Unfortunately, I don't know how this was a miracle.
When we arrived we took a few minutes to take pictures outside since it's forbidden to take photos inside the walls of the monastery. Then, we wrapped our waists and heads with the fabric that was provided because women are not allowed to wear pants or have their heads uncovered. Then we walked around the grounds. Lyaysan and I went into the church where she bought some candles and gave me one so I could light it and leave it in front of one of many idols in the cathedral. Having grown up Roman Catholic the Orthodox church is so fascinating to me. I really need to do some research on why there is such a big difference between the churches.
We sat on a bench for a few minutes, then we met her parents and walked down to the holy water. Lyaysan told me that the last time they went to the monastery the entrance we walked through and the path with the pool of water weren't there. In Russia's attempt to become more conservative it seems the Orthodox church is reaping the benefits.
Before we left the monastery we stopped into the dining hall which can be found to the left when you first walk in and is labeled "Хлеб" meaning bread. There you can enjoy a free cup of tea and coffee, as well as some cookies. They even had loaves of bread that visitors were free to take. Of course, they ask for a donation, which I happily gave because the bread smelled so good! We enjoyed some shawarma and donuts that we brought with us from Ufa then headed out.
Since I haven't been outside of Ufa, Lyaysan's parents were nice enough to stop at different places so we could get out to take pictures. In the picture below, you'll notice that the water is extremely blue/green. I asked Lyaysan why it looked that way and she told me that's what it looks like when it's in it's purest state. Make me wonder what's in the Ufa and White rivers which flow around the city.
Our next stop was to the hydropower plant. I'm pretty sure it's the first dam I've ever seen in person and I never realized how big they are! It was scary looking over the sides. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to take pictures of it, but we stopped a little bit away to take pictures of the river and surrounding land.
Our final stop on the way back to Ufa was this little pond with trees in it that caught Lyaysan's attention earlier that day. I think that's why we are friends, we both like weird (maybe, ugly) things. After we took pictures of the trees her dad pulled out a thermos of tea and we stood there in the middle of a field to drink it. Despite shivering from the cold, it was actually really nice to enjoy a cup of tea without anyone else around.
I was very nostalgic the whole trip. I really felt like I was back in the United States. The scenery was so beautiful and my photos don't do it justice. There was so much yellow with pops of dark green which made me feel like I was in a painting. I was reminded of books I read when I was a kid (Brian's Winter or Bridge to Terabithia , anyone?). This only fueled the nostalgia. Fall is absolutely my favorite season, and I am so thankful to Lyaysan and her parents for taking me outside of the city!
What do you think? Is this how you pictured Russia?